3 posts categorized "Franchise"

February 26, 2019


World_is_not_enoughPierce Brosnan (Golden Eye and Tomorrow Never Dies) can do no wrong. While leading actors like Harrison Ford and Nicholas Cage recede into mere shadows of their former selves, Pierce Brosnan gleams with all the requisite savoir-faire and charisma that the longest-running film franchise in cinema history demands. 

Brosnan's third installment as Her Majesty's top secret agent 007 lives up to the lofty expectations set down by Sean Connery's initial James Bond presence with an indispensable steely nerve and Bond's signature unquenchable libido. British director Michael Apted, best known for his fantastic 7 Up documentary film series and Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), makes a surprisingly impressive debut in the super-action genre of the Broccoli family dynasty.

By definition a James Bond film must provide various exotic locations (in this case Bilbao, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Instanbul), include mind-bending chase scenes through exceptional places, utilize slick gadgetry, have seduction scenes with audaciously beautiful women, and include an explosive ending that catapults Bond and his fille du jour into sequestered romantic bliss. The cinematic experience goes beyond guilty audience pleasure, because there's something in it for everyone. The feeling is akin to visiting characters who have become old friends in situations that continually add up to a life-affirming thrill ride. There is a deeply felt satisfaction in hearing that priceless James Bond theme music and digging into the latest spectacular pre-credit action sequence.


In The World Is Not Enough, James Bond is trying to track down an international terrorist, Renard (Robert Carlyle), who threatens to kill off lovely oil heiress Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). Elektra has already suffered as a former hostage of Renard but managed to escape before his hostage demands were met. Elektra is planning to open her own oil pipeline into Turkey after the explosive assassination of her wealthy father.

It's a theme right out of today's news as President Clinton has just approved a similar pipeline to deliver oil from Azerbaijan and Georgia into Turkey without going through Russia or Iran. The screenwriters could not have landed on a more topical idea, and although content is never the crux of a James Bond movie, it is an added bonus that the countries visited in The World Is Not Enough are currently very active in the news.

Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) returns to nourish the series as Bond's strident boss "M," while Desmond Llewelyn returns for the 19th time as Bond's meticulous gadget guru "Q." Robert Carlyle (TrainspottingThe Full Monty) does a brilliant turn as the ruthless terrorist Renard. He's the nastiest villain to challenge Bond since Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) in A View to a Kill. Renard's character is first introduced in a meeting between Bond and M as a giant three-dimensional translucent head revealing the bullet lodged in his brain that makes it impossible for him to feel pain. It's an ingenious scene, because it makes us question whether or not this man is still alive and what kind of monster could survive such a state of being. Carlyle looks physically wrecked in his scenes while exuding an air of spontaneous combustion beneath his misshapen and sullen eyes.


The World Is Not Enough keeps the stakes high for the James Bond franchise by paying closer attention to character development and interaction than recent films in the series. M proves herself to not be a perfect judge of character, and the beautiful Princess Elektra has a little "Stockholm Syndrome" stuck in the front of her mind to give the plot some artful double-crossing. Denise Richards may not be the most believable nuclear weapons expert as Dr. Christmas Jones, but she is the most comely.

Michael Apted more than hits his directorial marks, and at two hours eight minutes, The World Is Not Enough is, pound for explosion pound, a great return on your entertainment dollar.

Rated PG-13. 128 mins. (A-)Four Stars
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August 05, 2016


JasonBourneThe first two “Bourne” films were awesome. There was plenty of cool narrative grist for the audience to sink its teeth into. Here was a super-badass young spy with a mysterious identity that even he wasn’t privy to. Discovery was everywhere. Bourne’s personal mission was clear. Franka Potente (“Run Lola Run”) brought a chic European magnetism to her portrayal of Jason Bourne’s worldly love interest Marie. Hot chemistry smoldered between Matt Damon and Potente. However, Robert Ludlum’s source material novels had limited plans for Potente’s exquisitely crafted character. Too bad the filmmakers didn’t bring the actress back in a different role. Now that would have made for some potentially rich spy-plot excitement. Remember when Luis Bunuel had two actresses play the same role in “That Obscure Object of Desire”?

Bourne’s debut, “The Bourne Identity” (2002), remains the coolest new-franchise 21st century spy thriller to come along. “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) beats the rule that says studios too often crank out sequels in a rush to capitalize on an initial film’s box office success. We thank you Robert Ludlum.  

Let’s not forget that the first movie had an amazing cast all around. Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Brian Cox, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje each added to the film’s thrilling dynamism. The sequel did a number with Brian Cox, Karl Urman, Joan Allen, and a smooth touch from the always-enjoyable Michelle Monaghan. Then 2007 rolled around and the franchise went the way of Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” franchise with “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Three is not always a charm. Julia Stiles received an undeserved promotion that put the wooden actress in charge of line-readings that could be given better by an alley cat. Even the obligatory chases sequences began to take on a rote quality.


The fourth installment, “The Bourne Legacy,” abandoned Matt Damon in favor of putting a miscast Jeremy Renner in charge of the action sans indie agent Bourne. Yawn.

Which brings us to “Jason Bourne,” a script in search of a story, but willing to substitute action set pieces for narrative development. To call “Jason Bourne” merely tedious is being kind. This is a coattail dragging franchise addition that never should have been made. You can tell instantly that the film was written by a couple of screenwriters (Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse) with no Robert Ludlum source novel to work from. Sure Vincent Cassel works serious movie magic as a super heavy, and Alicia Vikander skates circles around Julia Stiles, but there is nothing to hang your hat on.


The Jason Bourne franchise is dead in the water for the same reason that every other Hollywood movie-series fails, poor planning. If you’re going to create a successful franchise, develop a triptych of films based on solid character development and a glorious plot structure that extends all the way to the end. Forget about creating the next James Bond; that’s not going to happen. Keep it rooted in emotion, political relevance, humor (i.e. satire), and sexiness. “Jason Bourn” has none of these precious elements. I recommend watching a James Bond movie instead. You’ll be a much happier audience member.

Rated PG-13 123 mins. (C-) (Two Stars — out of five / no halves)

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November 08, 2015



With his name prominently displayed as one of “Spectre’s” producers, Daniel Craig puts more than just his skin in the game of perpetuating cinema’s best-loved franchise. Craig’s explosive interpretation of 007 is the high watermark of the modern James Bond era, whose other incarnations include Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan. Don’t believe the publicity hype about Daniel Craig leaving the franchise. He’s in it for one if not two more James Bond features.

Craig’s steely pale blue eyes express and much as they conceal. His Bond is an inscrutable product of tightly wound instinct. He’s part animal. Where Craig’s last Bond outing (“Skyfall”) went operatically melodramatic, “Spectre” races into the throat of modern global villainy, namely a British version of the NSA. Who doesn’t want to see those surveillance-greedy hogs get their comeuppance? Bond’s unusual childhood also provides character clues related to this film’s criminal mastermind Franz Oberhauser (reliably played for kicks by Christoph Waltz). More gleeful than vicious, Waltz savors every smarmy word that Franz speaks to the spy he wants to torture to death (for personal and professional reasons), in the presence of his white Persian cat that Bond calls “pussy.” Bond’s girlfriend of the moment is also a witness to proceedings involving a power drill with a skinny but long bit. 

For the series’ 24th installment, “Spectre’s” four screenwriters create a brilliant tapestry of lavish style, sly humor, requisite flashy international locations, and eye-popping action sequences to check every innumerable box of the franchise’s simple-but-complex formula. At a well-used 148-minute running time, “Spectre” lives up to its promise. 


The car chases could be better, but I’m quibbling. Sam Smith commits a far greater sin with one of the series worst theme songs in movie history. “Writing’s on the Wall” is so unlistenable it’s sickening. Why the filmmakers didn’t go with an appropriate band like Ladytron (check out Destroy Everything You Touch) is beyond logic. Note to Bond’s producers, hire Ladytron for the next one, okay? 

“Spectre’s” obligatory opening action sequence occurs in Mexico City where Bond is on an assassination mission during Mexico City’s annual Day of the Dead parade. Death’s celebration creates a chaotic if visually stunning palate of skeleton-costumed crowds of thousands. Italian mafia kingpin Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona) is Bond’s elusive target. Your palms will be sweating by the time Bond boards a helicopter in pursuit of his human prey. Returning franchise director Sam Mendes milks every visually arresting spectacle for all its potential to stun his audience. The doorless helicopter hovers low over an enormous crowd of revelers in the town’s massive Zocalo Square. The chopper spins and flips above, tossing Bond and Sciarra around the cabin like rag dolls. This astonishing sequence alone is worth the film’s price of admission. Your heart will race. 

Lea Sedoux

Bond’s latest M (toughly played by Ralph Fiennes) is none too pleased about his spy’s problematic actions in Mexico that brought down an entire building. An injected tracking device insures that even MI5’s creepy overtaking superior “C” Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott) can track him wherever he goes. C is a pure manifestation of the kind of boy-scout sociopath you might imagine wiling away their hours at the NSA by listening to civilians having phone sex, or looking at their nude photos. You can guess how Bond translates the “C.” 007 taps back-channel favors from his pals Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) Q (Ben Whishaw) to enable a journey of discovery stained with blood and vodka. Frequent wardrobe changes come gratis.

Witty references to Bond’s past make for fun inside jokes for loyal audiences. The romance that steams between Bond and French beauty Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann barely allows a glimpse of the spy’s ostensibly soft side. It also gives Seydoux room to spread her wings. The pairing is oddly perfect. “Spectre” is an incredibly entertaining and fun movie. Isn’t that what James Bond movies are all about? 


Rated PG-13. 148 mins. (A-) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)

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